In preparation for the International Geophysical Year, the Soviet Union conducted its first Antarctic expedition in 1955-1956. On 30.11.1955 the diesel electric ship “OB” under Captain Ivan Han left the port of Kaliningrad. On board was the first expedition group with the expedition leader Dr. M. Somov. Two weeks later, on 15.12.1955, the second ship followed, the diesel electric ship “LENA” under Captain Alexander Wetrow. These two ice-strengthened ships were built in the Netherlands in 1954 to Soviet plans.
Its hull is built on the principle of the icebreaker and has increased strength. When fully loaded, the water displacement is 12,500 tons. Up to 8,000 tons of goods can be transported in four holds. The route of the expedition ships was the Baltic Sea – North Sea Channel – English Channel – Atlantic Ocean – Cape Town – East Antarctica. On 5.1.1956 the “OB” arrives in Antarctica. The plan was to go ashore in the area of the depot bay. The first explorations showed that the ice conditions in this bay did not allow the foundation of a station. In the Haswell Island area, a few days later, aerial reconnaissance found a site at 66° 33′ south and 93° 01′ east where outcropping rock had broken through the coastal ice.
The diesel electric ship “LENA” arrived in the area of the station “MIRNY” to be built up on 20.1.1956. Unloading operations are initially hampered by unfavorable ice conditions before the ships can be unloaded directly at the Mirny ice barrier. In addition to the unloading work, the construction of the Mirny station begins. About 250 people were busy with the construction work. Besides the builders, the sailors of the ships and the scientists of the expedition helped. The first building to be constructed was the radio station. Already on 25.1.1956 radio communication was established with the Australian neighboring station Mawson and the regular exchange of meteorological data was agreed upon.
On 30.1.1956 the “MV KISTA DAN” a supply ship of the Australian Antarctic Expedition, anchored the Soviet station. Details of further cooperation in the expeditions were discussed with the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Australian National Antarctic Expedition Philipp G. Law.
The “Reefer No. 7” arrived at Mirny on 8.2.1956. It brought 2,000 tons of food. All three ships had transported a total of 8,500 tons of expedition goods to Antarctica. Among them, four airplanes and two helicopters. One week later, on 14.2.1956 the flag was hoisted. The Mirny station was thus officially opened. On 24.2.1956 the expedition leader, M M Somov, and the well-known polar pilot Chervichny flew to the magnetic pole, where later a Soviet station was to be established.
The icebreaker “OB” left Mirny Station on 23.2.1956 for an extensive sea expedition through Antarctic waters. 49 scientists worked in nine scientific groups on problems in aerometerology, hydrology, marine geology, biology, geophysics, geochemistry and oceanology. The icebreaker “OB” moved in a zigzag course along the East Antarctic coast. As far as the Balleny Islands, 53 oceanographic measurements were made. On 3.4.1956 anchorage was made off Macquarie Island and the Australian research station there was visited.
The Australian polar explorers under their leader Jan Adams were delighted with the visit of their Soviet colleagues. The research voyage continued to New Zealand, where they went ashore in Wellington. Subsequently, Adelaide in Australia was called. From there, we headed back towards Antarctica across the southern Indian Ocean to the ice edge. There it came to a last mail takeover, which was flown by an airplane from Mirny to “OB”. On 20.5.1956 the French research station on the Kerguelen Islands was visited. Across the Indian Ocean, Soviet marine scientists on the “OB” laid a series of measurements that were extended to the entrance of the Red Sea. In the Gulf of Aden, the last oceanographic survey, the 150th, was drilled. The “LENA” began its return journey on 17.3.1956. With her, the construction workers returned home.
The first station chief of Mirny was Ch. Greku and deputy expedition leader W. Golube. During the first expedition, 604 radiosondes were launched. The aircraft were in the air for 1500 flight hours, covering about 340,000 km. This corresponds to the distance between the earth and the moon.